The First Word: This second movie in Paul Thomas' Masseuse series emphasizes plot above all else and dares to depict situations not normally shown in porn. But in the end, while it's an interesting drama with credible acting performances, the sex action doesn't live up to the fact that Masseuse 2 is a hardcore adult movie.
Plot Synopsis: Masseuse 2 is the story of two massage therapists, Noreen (Ashlyn Gere) and Anita (Asia Carerra) who work in a seedy Los Angeles massage parlor. Noreen, who turns tricks with her clients, struggles to justify her profession to herself by seeking validation that she's more than just a prostitute. She's hides her day job from her evening suitor, a wealthy gentleman (Steve Drake) who she met in a park. Noreen's friend and co-worker, Anita, became a masseuse after not being able to find another job after her divorce. She claims that she "just gives body rubs," but realizes that men come to the parlor for more than just a rubdown. Things become more confusing to Anita when she runs into her ex-husband (Steven St. Croix), who attempts to reconcile with her and save her from her dark profession. In the end, both of them find their escape from the massage parlor through a bittersweet series of events that change their lives.
Notable Performances: As I'll discuss in a minute, there's not too much sex in this movie, and what little there is, isn't outstanding in my book. Since this movie won recognition for the story and acting, that's what I'll key in on for the notable performances. While not Hollywood caliber performances, Ashlyn Gere and Asia Carerra's portrayals of masseuses trying to find themselves are quite good for adult movies, and better than I would expect from nearly all porn stars today. I can't say that I particularly enjoyed the story, but the level of dialogue and the depth to which the lines were delivered are above and beyond the other movies of the time (mid-1990s). Also, look for decent performances from Steven St. Croix and Tony Tedeschi (both of whom look much younger). From a physical standpoint, both Ashlyn and Asia look great, especially Asia, who's pre-surgery breasts are just beautiful in my eyes, even if they may not have been in hers.
Dislikes: Make no mistake, I have no problem with plot-driven adult movies, especially when the story is interesting and sexy at the same time. However, there are very few hardcore sex scenes in Masseuse 2, and all of the scenes are quite short, the longest being about seven minutes long. In fact, I kept track of the elapsed time of the "harder than R-rated" footage and found that the total was about 25 minutes, or less than one-third of the entire movie. In this way, it's more like a classic adult film from the Golden Era, with quite a bit of time being spent on the story development instead of depicting sex. To be honest, if you are looking for a video to get off with, this is absolutely not the one. Not only are the sex scenes short, but they have a decidedly un-erotic feel to them.
That brings me to my second disclaimer: the circumstances surrounding the sex turned me off to the actual acts (and perhaps that was Paul Thomas' goal). One scene involves Steve Drake throwing Ashlyn Gere on the bed and somewhat forcing himself on her, being verbally abusive all the while (it's not a rape scene because Ashlyn decides to play along after the initial struggle, but it still is uncomfortable to see). Another scene has a misogynistic Randy West visiting the massage parlor with his despondent wife, forcing her to watch him have sex with the masseuse before having rough anal sex with her. Not only did the scene upset Ashlyn's character, but it pissed me off to. Then, there's a scene where Steven St. Croix's "ex-wife" and his "girlfriend" have sex, when it's apparent that the girlfriend is both drunk and doing it for revenge. Finally, there's an entire scene that shows Ashlyn playing a gender role reversal with a client, pretending to that he is a girl, dressing him in panties, and fucking him in the ass with a strap-on. I didn't have a huge problem with that scene, but I'm sure that some readers might, so I thought it would be good to mention it.
DVD Notes: I wasn't impressed at all with the audio or video quality of this DVD; it's pretty clear that Vivid used the VHS master as the source of the DVD transfer. The video is grainy and rough, with occasional video dropouts that can only come from videotape. Also, the flesh tones are off--everyone looks as if they have a sunburn or pink skin. The audio is not much better, with a distinctively hollow and reverberating soundtrack. Extras include the Vivid Raw extras package on Side B (with the "theater lobby" menu interface) plus three video clips and and five previews on Side A. Nothing to write home about, but better than nothing, I suppose. There's also a several minute long intro to the DVD with a montage of footage of the Vivid Girls in action, which is okay, but you have to manually fast-forward past it to get to the main menu (you cannot just chapter skip over the intro). I don't like to see studios, mainstream or adult, putting long disc load advertisements on DVDs--put a link to it off the main menu if you must, but don't make me watch it every time I put your disc in my player!
The Last Word: I really don't know how to classify this movie--it doesn't have that much sex it in compared to the amount of story, but it really isn't a couple's film with the unorthodox theme and depressing subject matter. It's more of a drama that happens to have some hardcore sex in it. It's certainly not good movie to pick up if you're looking for long scenes of explicit sex, since practically any other Vivid movie has more of that than Masseuse 2 does. I can't really recommend it unless you are looking for an adult movie with a change of pace.